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Category Archives: Transformations Concert

We’re in the thick of the Columbia Wind Ensemble Fall 2010 season.  Please keep reading for information on the CUWE’s fall 2010 concerts: “Transformations” on 10/17/10, and “Magic & Mystery” on 11/21/10.  Also on the radar is the Westchester County Arts Leadership Association band reading session on 11/2/10.  Enjoy a look at some great repertoire!

Columbia University Wind Ensemble Fall 2010

**One special note about this season: given the 12 seniors we have in the band this year, I’ve decided to spread out the usual Senior Choices throughout the entire season.  So each concert will have a handful of senior contributions, rounded out by own picks.  Senior picks will be noted, and any that aren’t are my choices.**

MAGIC & MYSTERY – November 21, 2010

This set is a study of the mystical.  The obvious star of the show is Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but the others present equally compelling looks at the mysterious. De Meij’s Gandalf presents a musical characterization of the famous grey wizard from Lord of the Rings.  Thompson’s Alleluia is an appeal to a higher power at a time of great darkness and uncertainty.   Nelson’s Homage to Machaut pays tribute to the medieval vocal master – I find that both Nelson’s and Machaut’s works possess an other-wordly quality.  Weinberger’s Schwanda explores the mystical powers of music through truly out-of-this-world counterpoint.  All of them shine a light on a mysterious place.

Gandalf by Johan de Meij

Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper by Jaromir Weinberger

Alleluia by Randall Thompson, arr. Lewis Buckley

Homage to Machaut by Ron Nelson

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas, arr. Frank Winterbottom (for clarinetist [formerly bass] and world traveler Alicia Samuel)

Note: Pagan Dances by James Barnes hasn’t disappeared completely.  Look forward to hearing that at the 3rd annual Columbia Festival of Winds on 3/6/2011.  Also for that event, you’ll want to be ready with Sousa’s Washington Post March, which will be our massed piece at the end of the afternoon.

TRANSFORMATIONS – October 17, 2010

This concert looks at music that somehow experiences change in the course of a piece.  Obviously this would be true of a theme and variation (Variants) or what amounts to a Gilbert & Sullivan mashup (Pineapple Poll).  But change is in the air as Holsinger gives a melody his treatment (On an American Spiritual), Ticheli puts cataclysm in music (Vesuvius), and most subtly as John Barnes Chance lets his swan song unfold (Elegy).

On an American Spiritual – David Holsinger (for tubist and arranger Elizabeth Laberge)

Variants on a Medieval Tune – Norman Dello Joio

Vesuvius – Frank Ticheli (for chemistry whiz and multi-sax player Jason Pflueger)

Elegy – John Barnes Chance

Pineapple Poll – Sir Arthur Sullivan, arr. Charles Mackerras (for CUWE president and trumpet-trombone-sax player Paul Lerner)


Sir Arthur Sullivan indeed composed the music that is in this piece.  However, he had been dead 50 years at the time of Pineapple Poll‘s genesis.  This idea came about in 1950 due to copyright law: Sullivan died in 1900, and so in 1950 his music became public domain.  However, Sir William Gilbert, his serpent-tongued lyricist partner, died several year later, so his portion of the famous Gilbert and Sullivan work was still under copyright.  This necessitated that any use of the Gilbert and Sullivan material be purely instrumental.  And so it was, in the form of the ballet Pineapple Poll.  Sir Charles Mackerras took pieces of the existing material wholesale and essentially stitched it together in different forms to create the ballet music.  To create a story for the ballet, choreographer John Cranko referred to Gilbert’s poem “The Bumboat Woman’s Story”, one of his early, satirical Bab Ballads.  In it, an old woman tells the story of falling in love with a sea captain, then dressing as a man to follow him to sea, only to find the rest of the crew had done exactly the same thing.  The band suite, arranged for wind instruments by W. J. Duthoit, appeared in 1952 as no. 768 in Chappell’s Army Journal, a serial subscription service for new band music.

Note: the “Poll” of the title is pronounced like the first syllable of the name “Polly”, for which it is short.  It is not like North Pole.

More on Gilbert & Sullivan at wikipedia.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive – a must-see for fans of the duo.

The Bumboat Woman’s Story in full, basis for Pineapple Poll‘s plot.

More information about the original ballet on wikipedia.

Now some videos.   First, the band suite in 2 parts as performed by Stetson University Symphonic Band:

Finally, a segment of the ballet which features some of the material that made it into the third movement of the band suite:

John Barnes Chance (1932-1972) was born in Texas, where he played percussion in high school.  His early interest in music led him to the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, studying composition with Clifton Williams.  The early part of his career saw him playing timpani with the Austin Symphony, and later playing percussion with the Fourth and Eighth U.S. Army Bands during the Korean War.  Upon his discharge, he received a grant from the Ford Foundation’s Young Composers Project, leading to his placement as resident composer in the Greensboro, North Carolina public schools.  Here he produced seven works for school ensembles, including his classic Incantation and Dance.  He went on to become a professor at the University of Kentucky after winning the American Bandmasters Association’s Ostwald award for his Variations on a Korean Folk Song.  Chance was accidentally electrocuted in his backyard in Lexington, Kentucky at age 39, bringing his promising career to an early, tragic end.

The OCU School of Music Band Program Note database offers this note on Elegy:

When a member of the West Genesee Senior High School Band died, Elegy was commissioned in his memory.  It is a single-movement, solemn work based on a five-note motif stated initially in the low woodwinds.  The piece builds to a bold statement in the horns which grows to a dramatic climax.  A brass fanfare played with the theme in the woodwinds again ends abruptly, after which the piece closes in a fragmented echo of the beginning.  The music symbolizes the tragedy of a life cut short, seemingly unfinished, as a portion of the original motif is left hanging while each instrument dies away.

Sadly, Chance wrote Elegy only months before his own sudden and tragic death.  The piece stands as an emotional monument to this composers unfinished career.

Some links:

Listing of a John Barnes Chance CD on with an extensive customer review at the bottom that is required reading.

Also, here’s John Barnes Chance’s wikipedia bio.

This performance of Elegy is among the best you will ever hear.  It is Frederick Fennell conducting the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, the finest conductor the wind band has ever known leading one of the finest bands in the world.  Together Fennell and the Kosei folks play this tragic piece with all the necessary gravitas and emotion.

Educated at the University of Michigan, composer Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) has become one of the biggest names in new wind band repertoire.  Since 1991 he has been a Professor of Composition USC-Thornton and, until 1998, Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony.  The recipient of many awards, he was most recently winner of the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2.

Ticheli’s own program note best describes his intent in writing Vesuvius:

Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed Pompeii in A.D. 79, is an icon of power and energy in this work.  Originally I had in mind a wild and passionate dance such as might have been performed at an ancient Roman Bacchanalia.  During the compositional process, I began to envision something more explosive and fiery.  With its driving rhythms, exotic modes, and quotations from the Dies Irae from the medieval Requiem Mass, it became evident that the Bacchanalia I was writing could represent a dance from the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii.

More info on Ticheli’s Vesuvius can be found here, at his publisher’s website.  This site is also home to a complete, downloadable set of mp3s of the vast majority of his large ensemble music – quite a find!

Frank Ticheli’s personal website,

Ticheli bio on wikipedia.

Frank Ticheli’s Facebook fanclub.

A video interview with Ticheli in which he talks about composing.

An anonymous band plays Vesuvius:

Want to know more about Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius?  Check it out on wikipedia.

Born in 1913 into a long line of Italian musicians, Norman Dello Joio followed quickly in his family’s footsteps.  His father was an opera coach and organist; by age 12, young Norman was substituting for his father on organ jobs.  He went to Juilliard on scholarship, where he shifted his focus from the organ to composition, studying with Paul Hindemith.  He wrote for a wide range of ensembles and won accolades from all corners of the music world, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 and an Emmy in 1965 for his score to the television series The Louvre.  His contributions to the wind band repertoire are significant, and include Scenes From The Louvre, the Variants on a Mediaeval Tune, a set of Satiric Dances, and several other beloved works.  Dello Joio died in 2008 at age 95 having never retired from composition.

Dello Joio on Wikipedia.

Dello Joio’s obituary in the New York Times

Dello Joio’s website.  It’s unfortunately very out of date and looks very much like the early-internet relic that it is.  But it is still an informative look into Dello Joio’s life and work.

Variants on a Mediaeval Tune was written in 1963 on commission from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation for the Duke University Band.  It consists of a set of five variations on “In dulci jubilo”, a tune that has been treated by composers for centuries.  Each variation is strikingly original in its character and treatment of the tune.

Variants as performed by William Revelli and the University of Michigan Symphonic Band (on my birthday, no less!  12 years before I was born…)

Finally, a little extra information about “In dulci jubilo” from, and some more from a Christmas carol site.  And the most commonly-accepted version of its lyrics, in a mix of Latin and German, and a MIDI file to help you sing along:

1. In dulci jubilo,
Nun singet und seid froh!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
Leit in praesepio,
Und leuchtet als die Sonne
Matris in gremio,
Alpha es et O, Alpha es et O!

2. O Jesu parvule
Nach dir ist mir so weh!
Tröst mir mein Gemüte
O puer optime
Durch alle deine Güte
O princeps gloriae.
Trahe me post te, Trahe me post te!

3. O Patris caritas!
O Nati lenitas!
Wir wären all verloren
Per nostra crimina
So hat er uns erworben
Coelorum gaudia
Eia, wären wir da, Eia, wären wir da!

4. Ubi sunt gaudia
Nirgend mehr denn da!
Da die Engel singen
Nova cantica,
Und die Schellen klingen
In regis curia.
Eia, wären wir da, Eia, wären wir da!

David Holsinger was born in Hardin, Missouri, December 26, 1945. His compositions have won four major competitions, including a two time ABA Ostwald Award. His compositions have also been finalists in both the DeMoulin and Sudler competitions.

He holds degrees from Central Methodist College, Fayette, Missouri, and Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. Holsinger has completed course work for a DMA at the University of Kansas. The composer was recently honored by Gustavus Adolphus College with the awarding of a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree for lifetime achievement in composition and the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division’s highest honor, designed and sculpted by renowned artist, Paul Granlund. Holsinger, as the fourth composer honored with this medal, joins a distinguished roster which includes Gunther Schuller, Jan Bender, and Csada Deak. Holsinger is the Conductor of the Wind Ensemble at Lee University, in Cleveland, Tennessee.

(short biography courtesy

Some more of my own thoughts on Holsinger: he is nothing if not a prolific composer for band. While he has his ocassional tics (ostinatos, an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to percussion), his music is consistently thrilling to play. His faster pieces blaze by in a whirlwind of excitement, and his slower numbers are thoughtful and genuinely beautiful. It is for these reasons that he is a favorite of players and audiences alike.

Holsinger has his own website:, which answers really ANY questions you might possibly have about him, including a fascinating testimonial about the search for his birth mother. There is much multi-media content as well, including videos of him ruminating on expressive performance.  Definitely check it out!

Program note on On an American Spiritual (1991) from its publisher, TRN Music.

Study guide from WynnLiterature.

And a complete performance video by the Illiana Wind Ensemble:

On an American Spiritual is a Senior Choice for tubist and arranger Elizabeth Laberge, CUWE class of 2011 (graduating early in December 2010).